What's fundamentally wrong with The Lone Ranger is precisely that: the fundamentals.
Where to start? How about an eponymous hero (Armie Hammer) whose origin journey from lawyer to avenger is as misconceived as it is unengaging?
Then there’s the slog of a story, centred on the construction of a train line through Comanche territory.
Even the Pirates posse (Jerry Bruckheimer, Gore Verbinski), with their fondness for bloat, should’ve recognised that such an arc cried out for the lean, mean approach.
The tone of this radio/TV serial reboot zig-zags from sadistic to farcical, with Indian genocide and a heart-eating villain (William Fichtner) sharing screen time with pratfalls and Depp’s Tonto, who reluctantly partners up with Hammer.
With the black-and-white war paint and dead-crow fascinator Depp looks the biz, but the chasm between sarcastic mugger and spirit warrior with tragic backstory is too awkward to breach.
A pair of gargantuan set-pieces that bookend the movie are witty, physics-defying spectacles in which Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner would be right at home. But they’re Verbinski’s wheelhouse: we’d be shocked if they sucked.
Less effective are the gratuitous interludes, such as Tonto’s frequent announcement “Something not right with the animals” so comedy rabbits can crop up with zero relevance to the plot.
The framing device (old Tonto relating his tale to a lad in 1933) sounds like a sweet, storybook idea but only helps nudge the running time up to an unnecessary 149 mins.
Which you’d think would allow time to develop characters like Helena Bonham Carter’s saloon owner, a cipher from start to (admittedly explosive) finish.
OK, so the big-sky scenery would make John Ford proud. There are neat nods throughout to everything from Buster Keaton’s The General to Little Big Man. And ultimately, it’s not as awful as Wild Wild West. But we’ll hazard a guess that Pirates 5 can’t come quick enough for Bruckheimer or Depp.
It looks terrific and when the action’s at full gallop, offers a wild ride. But the slapstick and sinister carnage gel about as well as Custer and the Bighorn.